Wyl wasn’t that kid. He knew what his boss was doing, and wasn’t going to give that easily. If he wanted him gone, it would have to be forcible eviction. Same policy he had for his landlord past and current. He just hoped it happened before he ended up a corpse. Between writing and working, sleep was a pipe dream.
After two weeks of this, he began to question his decision to stick it out. He wasn’t sleeping well, and trying to write out the stories swirling in his head… He’d usually fall asleep writing, waking to several pages… if typed, they had more grammatical errors and nonsensical broken sentences than a book report written by a first grader. If handwritten it seemed to start out legible for the first sentence or two… halfway down the page it was chicken scratch and strange doodles. Nothing usable in either case.
Wyl slumped down in a corner, resting his head on his knees for a moment as lull between after-school and after-rush settled on them and he could take a moment to breathe. He was working all of the tables that day and was exhausted to the point of stumbling over himself. Never mind that in the past week, he’d gotten maybe eight hours of sleep total. He looked up as a foot gently poked him in the ribs. Mandy, his partner in overwork. The stout little human woman was in trouble with the boss for getting into a verbal disagreement with the cook, who had subsequently been fired for sailing a plate at her head. He might have gotten away with it if the plate hadn’t shattered an inch from the boss’s face as he came in the door. Wyl was amazed Mandy didn’t bounce, too. He looked up at her, struggling to keep his eyes open and not nod back down. She smiled a little.
“You look like the living dead, honey.”
“No, corpses get more rest than I am.”
“If you’re not careful you’re going to end up one.”
“I’ll be okay...”
“Why don’t you just quit?”
“Why don’t you?” he asked with a half-smile.
“Who knows, I just might. But until I find another way to support my boy, this will have to be it. But you...”
“I have no other practical skills aside from my writing,” he shrugged, “And I’m far too obnoxious to be kept,” he smirked, then raised an eyebrow, “I could always try my hand as a hitman... I have great aim.” he smiled genuinely. Mandy laughed a deep chuckle.
“You do that! I know just who your first job should be!” She threw a nasty glare over to the boss. He was busy screaming at an elfin girl who was cowering behind her tray. It didn’t matter what she had done, just that he was unhappy with her. She looked ready to cry.
“She’ll be gone in a week.” Wyl sighed sympathetically.
“Sooner if she’s got any brains in her head,” Mandy nodded.
A month passed. And things just kept getting better and better.
The girl did quit. And he picked up her slack. The boss let up a little for a while when he thought Wyl was starting to become more of a liability than a shove-out, but then renewed his vitriol.
Having to walk home on a regular basis because his boss keeping him after closing caused him to miss the last train was bad enough normally. Having to walk in a veritable downpour was even worse. He thought he might be crying, but he couldn’t be sure through the torrent of rain that was soaking his face. The overpowering feelings of desperation and futility that sat heavily on his chest like an angry sow was enough to reassure him that he probably was in tears.
He sat down at an empty bus shelter and curled up around himself. He didn’t care that every inch of his clothes were soaked all the way to his skin, just that... He actually didn’t care about anything at the moment. All he wanted to do was just not think and not be, at least for a little while...
The words that he’d been trying to nail to paper, that had swirled in his mind like goldfish in a pond, had died. Dried up. He felt strangely empty without the constant chatter of that unseen voice whispering tales into his mental ear. Saturating his thoughts to the point of distraction. He remembered fleetingly the warm summer afternoons back home. He’d sit in the crook of a tree listening to the quiet, broken only by the chirp of birds or the call of a quail in the high grass. And he’d write. Stories of creatures of shadows, and people who underestimated the darkness. Primordial fears and darkest dreams and glimpses of things not meant to be seen. Pages and pages, at first for no one but himself. Then for his family as they encouraged him, even as his teachers chastised him for the subject matter.
He’d always felt spoken words were somehow inadequate to what he often wanted to say. When he was young he learned quickly that a single send could relay all he needed it to. Words, images, emotions, wound together but understood. But humans couldn’t send. As a child knowing what he wanted to say in his head, stumbling over it as he tried to explain himself… So when he became upset, he wrote instead. The words flowed easily, soul tricking out onto paper.
As he grew older, his writing went from simple journals to stories. Cathartic, mostly. If another child was bothering him, they rapidly ended up the villain, or soon and more commonly, the victim in a wild tale. And here, now… there had been stories about his boss. Many that never made it to paper. Some were among the most gruesome he’d ever written.
Now the words, the catharsis, was gone like so much smoke, the voice silenced, unanswering no matter how much he called to it. There was only exhaustion and a cold emptiness. Abandonment. Now he couldn’t even think, couldn’t put his thoughts together enough to comprehend how he would make it through the next day. He considered getting up and walking until he just collapsed somewhere, just to be moving, but that even seemed too difficult now. He was just… tired. So tired, heartsick, and alone. If this was all he had to look forward to for an eternity, he didn’t want it. Better to be human, to be mortal, and know there was an end to--
An end…. An end…. The words echoed in his mind, but he didn’t feel as cold as he thought he would. He wondered a little what it would feel like to just step in front of the southbound G... How fast would that be? But he wanted it to be clean. He didn’t want to upset his mother... for her to see... He didn’t want some blank-faced officer from their hometown to show up at her door and tell her that they’d had to scrape her son off the engine of a commuter train because he couldn’t handle the pressure of waiting tables and failing at writing. It was almost enough to make him laugh. Almost. Besides, he was a coward. He’d never be able to--
He felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and looked up a little, brushing away still-wet bangs.
“I... You’re...” He didn’t even try to send, his head hurt too much for that.
“You’re going to catch your death if you stay out here. Let me give you a ride home.”
Catch your death. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Wyl heard a dark laugh. At least he thought it was the back of his mind. Maybe it was from somewhere else inside.
“N-No, I can...”
“Where do you live?”
Wyl mumbled something and saw the regular... ‘What was his name? Had he ever said it...?’ shake his head slowly.
“That’s another four, five miles. Let me drive you.”
“I said I’m fine…. I don’t need…” He started to stand, but stumbled, his legs unable to support his weight. The elf man caught him before he could crash to the pavement, held him up.
“You can’t even walk right now.”
“I—” He didn’t feel like fighting. He really couldn’t fight, “Fine. Whatever.”
He hadn’t heard the truck pull up, and didn’t struggle as he was guided into the passenger side. It was warm, which was nice, and he slipped further into his own mind.
“Is that the extent of your name or does it go on from there?” the driver asked as he climbed in and tapped a finger on younger elf’s nametag, a gaudy blue and gold button that read only “Wyl”
“Wylhaen... Wylhaen Yves.”
“Well, Wyl, I’m Grenvil Devlin. Call me Grenn”
“Nice to meet you...”